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FlamesNation Mailbag: Preseason wrap-up, looking forward

With the schedule clear and the cuts coming, it’s beginning to look a lot like hockey season around here. Let’s revisit the preseason one last time before we jump into the regular season.

Real hockey on Wednesday, folks!

Remember that you can write into the FN mailbag at flamesnationmailbag@gmail.com

Bill writes:

One of the key assumptions is balanced TOI. It is well documented that the Flames rode Gaudreau-Monahan like rented mules. By year’s end, they were beaten up and out of gas. The Flames lost most of their games in the last 10 minutes of the third period. With a balanced attack over 4 lines, the Flames will win more games in the third period and have more legs for the final push to and into the playoffs.

If [and it’s a big ‘if’], the Flames can rank #10 or better in scoring, they will make the second round of the playoffs…maybe into the third round.

It would be interesting to see what your readers are predicting.

LW (G) C (G) RW (G) total goals TOI
Gaudreau (35) Monahan (40) Neal (25) 100 17
Frolik (10) Backlund (20) Lindholm (15) 45 16
Tkachuk (30) Jankowski (25) Bennett (20) 75 17
Dube (15) Ryan (10) Czarnik (10) 35 10

Total: 255 goals, 10th in the league based on 2017-18

These projections consider forwards only, but compare them to total goals from 2017-18, which means they’re stacking up against forwards and defenders. Example: Tampa Bay’s forwards were the most productive and only managed 242 goals. No matter, we’ll move some of the goals back to the defence: the Flames’ forward:defence goal ratio was 176:40, so about 80:20. Let’s assume that holds.

The first line looks just about right. One hundred may be up there (80 when you factor in defence), but the most productive first line the Flames have had during the Gaudreau-Monahan era has been with Jiri Hudler in 2014-15, which produced 93 goals. Maybe Sean Monahan hitting 40 is outlandish, but dare to dream. Even at worst, it seems within reason that that line could hit somewhere between 80 to 90 total goals if nothing goes wrong.

The second and fourth lines look about what you can expect from those lines. I think Michael Frolik and Derek Ryan hit a bit more than 10 goals, and Dillon Dube gets a bit fewer than 15, but otherwise realistic.

The third line is the ambitious one. You have all three players hitting career highs, which is fair given that they’re all young, but to the tune of 75 goals (60 with defence)? Only five three-man units hit 60 goals in AS last year, according to Corsica. None of them were any team’s third line.

Also the reliance on equal TOI distribution is going to make the entire thing fall apart. Bill Peters made it clear in the preseason that he isn’t going to roll four lines. Maybe that doesn’t hold in the regular season, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

I would stay away from Carey Price.

That statement is absurd on its own face, so let’s unpack it. Carey Price has been bad recently. Obviously, Price’s .900 SV% is an aberration from his usual greatness, and part of that is certainly because he’s on a bad team, has had major recent injury history, and is 31.

And at $10.5M per year until he’s 38, that’s a pretty dangerous gamble. If he bounces back, you do have the best goalie in the league. But how certain can we be that he bounces back and remains that goalie for the duration of his contract? Injuries and age can ruin a great goalie quickly, and that’s starting to happen with Price. He’ll start to underperform his salary sooner rather than later.

Being that he enjoys the reputation as the best goalie in the league, it’s probably going to cost a fortune to pry him out of Montreal (then again, the PK Subban, Alex Galchenyuk, and Max Pacioretty trades say otherwise). Is that worth it for a goalie you’re stuck with for a long period of decline?

The next best thing is Sergei Bobrovsky, who will likely cost ~$9M in a year when the Flames have to extend Matthew Tkachuk. Likely impossible, unless Treliving manages to move out a lot of the salary he built up this previous offseason.

Here are the goalies (and their teams, ages, 2017-18 NHL GP and SV%) who face a strong chance of being on waivers today:

  • Anton Forsberg (Chicago, 25, 35GP, .908%)
  • Curtis McElhinney (Toronto, 35, 18GP, .934%)
  • Calvin Pickard (Toronto, 26, 1GP, .857%)
  • Garret Sparks (Toronto, 25, 0 GP, n/a)
  • Eddie Lack (New Jersey, 30, 8 GP, .854%)

Forever a Flame McElhinney looks to be the runaway choice should he hit waivers, given his impressive late career run. He’s had a 0.925 SV% in backup duties since 2016-17, and a 0.915 SV% since 2014-15 despite being a .902 SV% goalie in the years prior to that. He’s a risky pick for a backup job given his age and certain regression, but the best of the bunch. Toronto likely knows this too, however.

Otherwise, pick your poison: the rest of these goalies are unspectacular selections. Forsberg has yet to translate AHL success to NHL success, ditto Sparks, who hasn’t played in the league in two seasons. Pickard falls into the same territory: looked to be a gem in 2015-16, can barely get an NHL appearance now. We know what Eddie Lack is.

All of these goalies are likely to be the same or worse than David Rittich or Jon Gillies. You really shouldn’t file a claim for any of them, if only because it puts seven goalies in the pros.

Brett Kulak has been waived, which sucks for him, but it’s the business. Juuso Valimaki played his way onto the team. The preseason being what it is, but Valimaki put up points and generally looked better with each passing game. He’s earned the spot, Kulak did not. That’s what camp is for.

Juuso will get his nine-game audition. The Flames know what they have in Kulak – steady, but replaceable – and are just getting to know Valimaki. If the kid can translate his junior performances to the NHL, he’ll blow your mind. Is being one year closer to RFA status really that important if he’s blowing things up as a rookie?

If he doesn’t do any of that, oh well, back to Kulak. Perhaps nine games isn’t enough to judge whether or not the Flames would be better over the remaining 73 games with Kulak or Valimaki (the more important milestone is 41 games, when Valimaki would become a year closer to UFA status), but the Flames should be fine whoever makes it. If Valimaki sticks, they have an emerging lethal threat on the blueline for years to come. If it’s Kulak, they have a steady blueliner who can easily be flipped for an asset of some kind (unless he’s claimed, in which case, uh-oh).

Yes, Michael Stone is going to be on the team ahead of Rasmus Andersson, barring any surprising waivers news. The Flames handcuffed themselves to Stone in the 2017 offseason, and this is the consequence.

The obvious answer is a trade, although I think a Stone trade is out of the question. He’s a $3.5M dollar man with a year left on his contract that doesn’t do much outside of the ~12 minutes he sees per night. What team is aching for that? Every team has hit the salary floor, so that’s out the window. Never count out the random bad decisions GMs make, but if Stone was wanted, he’d be gone.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t know. Dalton Prout seems to be the popcorn eater this season, so Stone can’t stay in the box unless the Flames are rolling 8D (they aren’t, probably). Andersson has to play his way onto the team from the AHL, although he did that last season, too. An injury is likely to pop up some time this season so that’s Rasmus’ time to make his name.

I think that’s the succession plan. As already covered, Valimaki is probably replacing Kulak this season, and the Flames should move on from Stone as soon as possible to bring Andersson to the NHL.

Oliver Kylington is the tricky piece. Both TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic go UFA in 2020, and they’ll both be 30 years old by then. Kylington will be a mere 23 and just coming off his first contract, which is around the time you expect a defenceman to reach the NHL. The Flames could potentially keep one of Brodie or Hamonic, although certainly not both. Kylington seems to fill in at one of those spots, but the question will be whether he can play his off side full time. If Brodie can do it, can Kylington?

I don’t think the Flames will look to move on from Kylington based on righty-lefty preference. He’s been getting better year over year and he could be something else if he reaches his full potential. They also have zero defensive depth behind him. If you think back to our top 20 prospects list, we had Kylington as the fifth best prospect. The next closest blueliner was No One. The Flames don’t actually have another right-handed defenceman in their prospect pool. If they need another defender up, they really have no other option than Kylington.

If we stay purely focused on prospects, the Flames could draft a defenceman in the 2019 first round, but it’s a dangerous bet to assume that he’ll be ready to take an NHL top four spot by 2020. They’ll likely find a way for Kylington to contribute by then. He may spend the majority of his season in Stockton again, but they are likely going to find a way for him to get involved in Calgary before his ELC runs out.

The easy answer is Dube. Early line projections have him on the third line with Ryan and Frolik. He saw PP and PK time in the more significant preseason games which also kind of gives you a hint about what he’ll be allowed to do this season.

Dube’s great 2017-18 campaign and bonkers 2018 preseason has seemingly resulted in a long leash from management, so watch for him to make the most of that.

If Dube has the long leash, guess who has the short one.

Bennett was obviously never going to usurp Johnny Gaudreau and Tkachuk for LW spots #1 and #2, but he seemed to have a steady grasp on LW #3. If a 20-year-old rookie with six AHL games stole his spot, well that’s a problem.

He also has to feel claustrophobic because of Andrew Mangiapane, too. Mangiapane had a better preseason than Bennett. Sam was fine, no doubt (reminder that we’ve been fooled by Preseason Sam Bennett before), but Mangiapane was better. If he’s made the team, as Sunday’s waiver transactions suggest, he should be on the ice and not in the press box.

The truth is that, even though they are both the same age (Mangiapane is actually a few months older) and that Bennett has way more NHL experience than Mangiapane, the Flames know what Bennett is. He has 250 NHL games under his belt. They can’t wait forever for him to break out, and if it’s denying another player who has at least some impressive pro success, he has to be moved out of the way. If it comes via trade, well that’s just how it is.

Perhaps Bennett is a victim of familiarity breeding contempt. Perhaps he’s just a bad player that the club can afford to move on from. Or perhaps he still has something left in the tank and he’ll prove it this year. Whatever the case, he has a tough path ahead to move up the rotation and an impressive young winger snapping at his heels. He’s in trouble, and if nothing improves, he’s the first to go.

Yes.

    • freethe flames

      Teams are already having injury issues on D. I wonder if Kulak gets claimed today? If you trade Stone now and the return does not fit a need then you are likely shopping for a guy like Stone at the trade deadline when the asking price is higher. Let’s not be in a rush to trade away depth.

      • cjc

        Personally I don’t see why we can’t have Stone as the 7 D and let Andersson play his way out of the 6 D spot (Prout goes to Stockton). Of course they are not going to do this, and I think their reasons are:

        1. they don’t want too many rookies on D
        2. Treliving has already had to admit bads by demoting Lazar and buying out Brouwer, so having 3.5 million riding the pine is not a good look.

        The hypothetical return on a Stone trade doesn’t really matter, because the feeling is that there are already 2-3 defencemen in the organization that can replace his contributions (Andersson, Kulak, Kylington). May as well get something if you can, but really all you need is the roster spot and the cap space. If there is a deal that doesn’t involve taking dead weight back, you take it.

        Others have said this, but there is no need to get attached to depth guys. If they need a guy like Stone, it’s because they decide that all 3 of those D, but particularly Andersson, are not ready. You are right that the TDL is more expensive, but it’s not like a 6 D would break the bank. But that is why having Stone as 7D is a great plan – it is a “safety net” for Andersson and the team, but Calgary should be icing the best team they can every evening. The only thing it is bad for is Brad Treliving’s optics.

    • Porcupine at a balloon party

      I sure hope you’re right @Fall, but can’t say I agree. Time will tell I guess. With Kulak gone however, my guess is they keep him for at least this season. But sure would be nice to see him shipped away for a mid round pick. Our defence depth is quickly running out though 🙁

  • freethe flames

    I like Mangiapane but saying he was better than Bennett is like comparing apples to oranges. Throughout the preseason Mangiapane was given plenty of opportunity to play in offensive roles while both Bennett and Janko were given much greater defensive roles. How much PP time was Mangiapane given vs either Bennett of Janko? I completely understand what BP was trying to do but I firmly believe Janko’s offensive upside this year is better than either Dube or Mangiapne given the same opportunities. Bennett is in the same boat as well. The difference between Bennett/Janko and Dube/Mangiapane is that the veterans are also expected to be significantly better defenders.
    Don’t get me wrong here folks as I like Dube and Mangiapane and feel both earned their jobs on the team but lets be clear the expectations and opportunities provided in the preseason were different.

    As for the goaltending I think what we see is likely what we will have until proven otherwise. They could have pursued a back up during the off season but it seems they felt comfortable with what they have.

    • Redleader

      I think Bennett does not deserve all this criticism, I like him on this team , I still believe in the Kid ! , he’s got Moxy it will come , to say Mangy was better ? I’ll bet in a puck battle Bennett would win over Mangy 9/10 times all day long and Mangy layed out by Bennett.so Mangy will replace Bennett in playoffs to stand up against Getzlaf and Kessler etc ? Bennett can fight hit , score, great on pk and if given the opportunity could be a threat on pp .

  • Mongauchuk

    good morning. I am optimistic that the flames goalie situation will be fine this year. since we are starting the season with back to back against the canucks and they are considered to be not very good and we are worried about Mike Smiths workload, how about we start Ritiich in van and Gillies at the dome on Saturday. kinda big pressure and see who responds.

  • buts

    Sparks and McElhinney (people forget it takes a long time for a goalie to figure it out in the nhl in Macs case) are definitely better than Rittich and Gillies. Picking a goalie up off waivers is one way to go but I’m sure a trade would be the better route. Smith did not have a good pre-season. I’m sure they could find a spot in the minors for Rittich.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    I cannot accept Dube and Mangiapane both making the club out of training camp unless both are going to play real minutes with Flames game in and game out. Worst case is for one to start and the other to be the 13th or 14th forward who, like a vulture, sits and wait for carnage to create an opportunity. So after a tough game for Dube or Mang, instead of being given a chance to get back on the horse the next game, he sits and stews while the other guy plays. Talk about destroying a kid’s confidence. Both lads need to play real minutes regularly and if there is only room for one to do that in Cal, then the other goes to the Heat to entertain Mr. and Mrs. Finest. It doesn’t matter if both have earned the right to play here. There is only room for one unless the tricky Tre steals the day by jettisoning a veteran starter.

  • buts

    McElhinney and Pickard were put on waivers this morning. Both are better at the moment than what we have. Mac had a 934 sv percentage last year behind a weaker D than what we have.

      • buts

        You can talk all you want about forwards and D there AC without solid goaltending we or any team is going no where. Redundancy? goaltending is the single most important position and our great GM has done nothing……why am I responding to you? What do you know….. your a clown!

        • Atomic Clown

          If the solution to the flames woes is a waiver pick up, then this team is worse than the Sens. Is rehashing trump tweets now your new schtick? Given that you no longer have Hamilton to bash?

          • buts

            I really like the acquisitions made this summer as well as some deletions….we are very close to being a legit contender. Look at our first month of the schedule…..do you think that with the tending we have had thru pre-season is good enough to be successful. Our backups body of work is not nhl worthy. Smith does not give me confidence. It’s my opinion.

        • aye

          Sometimes the best move is the move you don’t make.
          Goalies are simply impossible to predict from year to year, there’s plenty of examples of goalies coming out of nowhere to have huge success (i.e. Kipper), and plenty more playing out of their minds and getting everyone on the hype train only to flop out (i.e. Hammond), and goalies who were basically written off then flourish when given a last chance (i.e. Dubnyk). Basically my point is, there’s no guarantees with goalies, and if Tre has learned anything from the last few years of trying to fix the goalie situation should be “let’s wait and see”, and that’s what fans should do as well.

          • Redleader

            And Carey price not a 10 mill dollar goalie at the moment. Smith was one of my favourite players last year ,he was one of Flames best players last season! I can’t wait to see him play , he was awesome last year till injured , we will see , hey Parsons looks promising too , and had a great camp , we have 3 backups already ,we don’t need anymore, keep the faith, this is our roster and it looks good,prospects look good, Trevling has put together a solid group ,a young core ready to dominate, it will be an epic Johnny and Mony show this season !! TKACHUK Rising!! Lindholm and Hanifin s ceiling s look high , if you can’t get excited about this roster you probably never will.

  • MDG1600

    I would prefer Dube to develop as a centre since he might be a guy that in the future can keep up with Mcwhatsisname in a head to head role and minimize the damage he can do. This is important since I expect many a critical playoff showdown with the Oilers over the coming years. If this means time in the AHL for Dube to learn the finer points of playing centre at the pro level I am OK with it. In addition, I think the preseason was a bit misleading wrt the kind of offensive production we can expect out of Dube since it is easy to forget that he got most of his points early in the pre-season against some really bad goaltending.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    If Kulak and Ras go back to Stockton they will likely be one of the best defensive pair in the league. I expect that Ras will get a call up before Kulak and Kulak becomes another TSpoon. Personally, I hope both Lazar and Kulak get picked by another organization so the can continue their NHL careers. A lot of making in the NHL for these guys is timing on the right team.

  • KKisTHEproblem

    “Brett Kulak has been waived, which sucks for him, but it’s the business. Juuso Valimaki played his way onto the team” and “Yes, Michael Stone is going to be on the team ahead of Rasmus Andersson” Christian, why is it just the nature of the beast for Kulak while Stone, who most of us think got outplayed by Phat Ras, gets a pass on “its the business”. I would put Ras on the team over Stone any day of the week. Ras has a much higher ceiling and is very likely the better player already. I don’t understand your double standard. Unless you think Stone out played Ras?

      • KKisTHEproblem

        Thanks for the response. It is a double standard but as other posters have said, its not unusual with vet vs rookie. That was such an overpay for Stone

    • cjc

      I don’t think he was arguing that management would be logically consistent. Stone in the AHL doesn’t save the team any money, and Stone as the 6D instead of 7D wouldn’t be a good look for management. A lot of teams would make that decision – not saying it’s the right one, but hockey GMs are not very logical.

  • Raffydog

    So any good feelings I had during the off-season have been chewed up and spit out during preseason. It looks like more of the same from this group heading into the new year. They will still struggle to score goals, and won’t be able to stop anyone from scoring on them. Defense is still to soft and easy to play against, and the goalies look worse than last year somehow. Sorry to say nation, but the Flames will not make the playoffs this year, and if you’ve been paying attention I’m batting 100% on my predictions since joining this site so take that for what it is. The question then becomes, what is the plan after another failure of a season? I can’t imagine that Treliving keeps his job, and if you’re bringing in a new gm do you blow everything up and start another rebuild or trade away what you can for help? Either way it’s going to be another long disappointing season for Flames fans unfortunately.

    • MDG1600

      Wow, that was negative. Not sure why you believe they will have trouble scoring goals when it seems clear they have added a lot of forward depth including offensively skilled players like Lindholm, Neal, Czarnik, Mang and possibly Dube. This is a clear upgrade from last year offensively. And I expect the PP to be better as well. I also don’t buy the D being as soft since “pillows” Hamilton is gone and so is Kulak, neither of whom were physical. Lets wait and see how Andersson and Hanafin play before passing judgement on the D being soft. I am going to partly agree with you about the goaltending only to the extent that I think it is a legitimate area of concern. I predict your post will be trashed so if I am right does that mean that I too can claim 100% accuracy in my predictions?

      • Raffydog

        Just telling it like it is cause somebody has to. Where are the goals going to come from? The top line will get their points obviously, but after that it gets pretty slim. We already know what the 3m line can do, which isn’t much, so I expect more of the same from them. Do you think a line of Ryan, Neal, and Czarnik are scoring a bunch of goals? Nope. That fourth line looks atrocious, and I’ve seen what Mangiapane can do last year, which was nothing. Dube looked good early but disappeared once he started playing against nhl competition. And I don’t think Hanifin and Andersson are known for being tough as nails defenseman. Nope, I’m afraid this years version looks eerily familiar to last years, and we saw how that played out.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      More of the same what? Pre-season? Yes, it’s a real shame we didn’t go 7-1 like the Mighty Oil or 7-1 like Detroit. Yamamoto and Rattie will lead the league in scoring. Bwahahaha. You are talking about Treliving being on borrowed time after making moves to improve the financial picture and bring in quality players, yet a GM like Chia gets a pass for doing nothing to address a LTI for a top 4 D-man.

      Get over the pre-season and watch regula season hockey. It should help you form an opinion of what to expect this season.

      • Raffydog

        Ok I’ll bite. I honestly couldn’t care less what the Oilers or Chia do, however it is interesting that many people claim the Oilers defence is the reason why they won’t make the playoffs, yet they seem to beat the Flames more often than not. So what does that say about Calgary’s defence?

        • Jourflamesfan

          You definitely have a point here. For the past 2 years flames have been beat down by the Oilers in most of their matches.
          Until they beat Edmonton a little more often I dont see how they make the playoffs.
          I’m optimistic that their scoring will improve. I’m not worried about goaltending that much either.

        • Derzie

          The Oilers are a better team than the Flames simply by having McDavid and a goalie that is better than any that we have. Our benchmark is to have a better record than either Calgary & Carolina did last year. If we do that, it’s a good year. I expect we won’t.

    • 左翼二

      Forwards not yet at their peak, and so will likely score more this year than any other year in their career:
      Johnny, Monny, Lindy, Byng, Bennett (yes, him too), Janko – half the forwards.
      Forwards at their peak, likely to score as much as they have in previous years:
      Backs, Fro.
      Forwards on the downward slope, but likely not yet Brouwered:
      Neal, Ryan.
      Unknowns, including rookies:
      Czar, Hath, Mangi, Dube.

      Gio – still great, and if not, I’ll believe it when I see it.
      TJ – big ol’ question mark
      Hani – not anywhere near his peak, should be better than ever (but no Dougie in terms of offense)
      Hamo – same old, same old
      Phat Ras, Juicy, Stone – who knows, depends on much they play and when Stone gets traded.

      Goaltending – another big ?

      All told, should be much better this season than last, and we should be able to say that for a few seasons in a row. Goalies could be a problem tough.

    • Redleader

      Flames will be in playoffs this year and Soilers will not , multiple losses will be added to the losing record at the new billion dollar building! There’s my 100% accurate prediction.

  • Off the wall

    The Flames have two more practices. I’m willing to assume a lot of attention will be focused on specialty teams and consistency.

    I’m 100% sure we will play the Canucks on Wednesday and Saturday. This makes me feel better. ?

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    @duvie27
    14h14 hours ago
    More
    Replying to @FlamesNation
    Do we believe that Peluso is just here to eat popcorn? I have concerns that old school thoughts have are back after the season opener…

    Will this question be picked to answer in the October 8th, 2018 Monday mailbag? Yes: -750 / No: +500
    Will the word “Prout” be used anywhere in the mailbag? Yes: ** Notice. This wager has been taken off the board. Too much wagered on Yes **

    • Mickey O'Reaves

      Grading:

      The Peluso question was not picked.

      “He had the tough task of carrying Dalton Prout (81.82 CF% together, Prout had a 11.11 CF% apart) around but generally looked fine.”

      That will put a couple of casinos out of business, thankfully some of us got in early on the action. Free money!